In his "I have a dream" speech back in 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. said that he envisioned an America where his children were not judged by the color of their skin, but by the "content of their character". That dream remains elusive.
John McNeil, Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin were all born with skin that would clearly set them apart from White Anglo-Saxon Americans. Michael Dunn and Brian Epp were clearly not, while George Zimmerman's ambiguous appearance leaves him somewhere in between.
Historically, these men will be conjoined in the annals of race relations in America. The stories of how their lives intersected vary, the locations, not so much. George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Florida. Michael Dunn shot and killed Jordan Davis in Florida and attempted to kill three more black teenagers riding in the same car.
John McNeil, a black man had the misfortune of shooting Brian Epp, a white man in the state of Georgia. Perhaps McNeil's only luck was that the incident didn't occur in Alabama or Mississippi.
As Bobby Russell said in his 1972 "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia", "Don't trust your soul to no back woods southern lawyer, Cause the judge in the towns got bloodstains on his hand".
Of these three cases, two involved the shooting of a black teenager, one involved a black man, standing on his property and defending his family.
The best known of these cases is the George Zimmerman case. Please don't start arguing yet, George Zimmerman did, in fact shoot Trayvon Martin. He admitted he shot him, and all evidence corroborates that fact.
I've written about the Martin/Zimmerman case and we've argued about it. None of us were there, but the facts that remain undisputed are that Trayvon Martin was a teenager armed with a Mountain Dew and Skittles. George Zimmerman was a 30-year old man with anger issues, armed with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol.
Had George Zimmerman obeyed the police dispatcher and stayed in his truck, I would probably never have heard his name or known anything about him. Six Florida jurors were unable to find him responsible for Martin's death, but make no mistake. That's a far cry from innocence. More than one juror expressed displeasure with the verdict.
Michael Dunn, stopped at a Florida gas station for wine and chips was annoyed at the volume of music coming from an SUV occupied by 4 black teenagers. They probably told him to go fuck himself, something I've been known to do myself.
Feeling disrespected, Dunn reached into his glove compartment, pulled his gun and opened fire on the SUV, loosing a total of 10 shots. 9 bullets hit the SUV, 3 of those struck and killed 17-yr old Jordan Davis. Dunn then drove home with his fiance, ordered a pizza, walked his dog and poured himself a rum and Coke.
Michael Dunn could've driven away with his Doritos and Boone's Farm wine. It's wasn't like the noise was coming from his upstairs neighbors.
After emptying his gun into a car full of teenagers, Dunn neither called the police nor did he tell his fiance that he thought one of them was reaching for any kind of weapon.
At his trial, Dunn said that he thought Davis was reaching for a shotgun. As with all big shots whose egos write checks their bodies can't cash (Thank you, Cmdr Tom Jordan-Top Gun), he got himself into trouble and then said he was in fear for his life. In stand-your-ground America, that's all it takes.
Inexplicably, Dunn was convicted on 3 counts of attempted murder, but the jury deadlocked on the murder charge for the guy he actually hit. Usually, it's the other way around. Most often there's a lesser penalty for attempted murder than there is for actual murder. It's like getting leniency for being a bad shot.
It makes one wonder. If Dunn had killed all 4 black teenagers, would the jury have been unable to convict on any of them?
So, it's open season on black kids. No big news there, but what happens when it's the black guy shooting? Do the same rules apply?
John McNeil got a call from his son saying that their contractor, Brian Epp was threatening the young McNeil with a knife. Rushing home, McNeil (the elder) found Epp on his property, still wielding a knife. Unable to get Epp to lose the knife, McNeil fired a warning shot into the ground. Unfazed, Epp rushed McNeil, who fired point blank at Epp when the contractor was so close that his body hit McNeil as he fell to the ground.
Eyewitness testimony supports the above version of events. Previous clients of Epp testified that they, too had been intimidated by Epps erratic behavior. The police concluded, as one would reasonably expect that John McNeil acted in self defense. Some cited the Castle Doctrine, as in he was defending his home. Which, in fact he was.
Nine months later the Cobb County prosecutor charged John McNeil with murder. Even as Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears opined that McNeil's claim of self-defense was reasonable and un-refuted, McNeil was sentenced in 2006 to life in prison. Seriously.
After years of tireless work by his wife, Anita, McNeil was finally allowed to accept a plea of Manslaughter and released after serving 7 years in prison. He returned to his home just two days after his wife and champion died of breast cancer and stood at her graveside on Valentines Day of 2013.
They say that sometimes you get the bull, sometimes you get the horns. Sometimes the black kids get shot, sometimes a black guy is the shooter. Either way, it seems like the black guy gets the horns.
And that's a bunch of bull.
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